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PCSO Release Final Update on DNR Officer Drowning

The following is a press release from Pine County Sheriff's Office:

"Final update on the investigation of the water accident 04-19-19

The investigation was led by the Pine County Sheriff’s Office and included several witness interviews and awatercraft inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard.

On 04-19-19 at 2025 hours, Minnesota Conservation Officer Eugene Wynn and Pine County Sergeant Scott Grice were in CO Wynn’s boat while Pine County Deputy Cody LaRoue backed Co Wynn’s truck to the water to launch the boat. The plan was to drive the boat in a loop and circle back to pick up Deputy LaRoue. CO Wynn accelerated the boat away from shore and then suddenly made an abrupt left turn. The boat corrected and both Wynn and Grice were thrown from the boat. The boat continued on its course until it beached on the west side of Cross Lake. It traveled about 800 feet on the water and about 50 feet onto land. The boat is owned by the MN DNR and is a 2004 River Pro with an inboard jet drive.

Witnesses on the south-east side of the lake and Deputy LaRoue saw the two officers in the water and Deputy LaRoue went to the neighboring property to use a rowboat that was on the shore. Before he could reach Sgt. Grice, CO Wynn was under the water. LaRoue attempted to paddle the boat and assist Grice with holding onto the boat. Deputy Aaron Quesenberry used a peddle boat to attempt to assist in the rescue and ultimately ended up in the row boat while LaRoue held onto Grice. The two deputies were able to get Grice to shore where he was transported to Firstlight Hospital in Mora. Grice was treated and released for temperature related injuries. Property owners on the lake reported seeing large chunks of ice floating on the lake until the evening of the 20th. It is unknown if the evasive maneuver was related to debris on the lake but no parties report hearing an impact while the boat was on the water. The surface temperature of the water was in the low 40’s.

The Coast Guard inspection did not identify any abnormalities to the boat that would have contributed to the accident.

There were two life jackets in the boat at the time of the accident, but the officers were not wearing them. MN law does not require life jacket use for adults.

We strongly recommend that all people that are enjoying the natural resources in Pine County use all safety devices that are appropriate. That would include life jackets, helmets, seat belts, and tree stand safety harnesses.Accidents happen very quickly, even to the very well trained and experienced. The safety devices only work if people put them to use before an accident happens. In this case the officers were thrown from the boat within a minute of being on the water and were not able to continue swimming within minutes. ATV crashes and tree stand falls happen as quickly with similar unfortunate outcomes.

We wish to express our continued support for the family and the deep sense of loss of a partner and friend."

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